Jim Simpson can read a lot about job candidates' tech savvy from the way they use their mobile apps.

There is a world of difference between a potential hire who knows how to use filters on Instagram to edit a photo, versus one who is barely aware of popular social networks.

His company, City Bank Texas, plans to ask job applicants about their familiarity with mobile apps and services in 2015. "It's a nontraditional way to hire a bank employee," said Simpson, the senior vice president and chief technology officer at the Lubbock, Texas, bank.

That is just one glimpse of the many ways technology is irrevocably changing banking. Next year banks across the country will be working to speed up financial services, adopt new payments technologies, serve consumers who want to be mobile users first and make other big changes.

"I think all banks are struggling with the question of how to survive and thrive in the increasingly digital world we live in," said James Plath, senior director and digital business lead for financial services firms at Gartner Consulting.

Financial institutions are especially trying to rid themselves of some the vestiges of bygone eras including paperwork, traditionalists and risk-averse cultures.

"There's more on the cutting room floor than you can act on," said Tom Kunz, director of digital at PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh.

The priority list, of course, will depend on the bank and its longer-term vision for the way in which it does business.

Real-Time Banking

One area destined for an overhaul is the way people buy financial services and products, said Jeff Dennes, the chief digital banking officer and head of business development and digital transformation at BBVA Compass Bancshares in Birmingham, Ala.

"It's kind of crazy I can buy 1,000 different products and services online and get them [delivered] next day, and I can't get a checking account or a loan … in real time," Dennes said. "Retail banking has to get much better at digital marketing and fulfilling products and services without human intervention, especially in [customer] acquisitions. We have to become completely digitized end to end."

At the same time, bankers say in the coming months they need to improve experiences for those many occasions when consumers want to start a transaction or conversation in a mobile banking app and wrap it up in a branch.

"Many banks have multiple channels, but [they're] not real well-connected across any portion of customer experience," PNC's Kunz said. "We need to make the customer experience seamless."

Some say the biggest tech-related change in banking in the next twelve months will be around the way people make payments.

The emergence of Apple's mobile payment technology, in addition to the pending deadline for merchants to upgrade their terminals to become EMV compliant, could drive major change in mobile payments next year. 

"Payments are being turned upside down," Kunz said.

The smartphone is helping to make the experience effortless as the payment fades into the act of shopping — a digital improvement banks are hoping will come to more areas of financial services.

Any Way I Want It

Eastern Bank in Boston is one of the latest banks working to build parity across its channels. One of its goals is to let customers be mobile-only if they prefer. Many banks -- except for BBVA Compass, U.S. Bancorp and some others -- force consumers to sign up for online banking before they can enroll in mobile banking.

The project is one of several technological changes influencing business at the nearly two-hundred-year-old Eastern.

"We have a whole portfolio of ideas we want to focus on," said Donald Westermann, the chief technology officer at Eastern.

Some of those future projects will build on existing projects like tests of video at in-branch kiosks and allocating resources in its development lab — yes, it has one — to speed up loan origination and funding.

All this work is being done to save customers time and let them choose the way they want to do business with the bank.

"It's about flexibility and options," Westermann said. "We need to deliver tech to meet people's needs."

Readying Employees

But in many instances it is going to take a new kind of employee to serve the modern consumer.

City Bank Texas' Simpson expects most banks nationwide next year to start quizzing job applicants about their tech know-how. Why? So their employees can provide the answers customers increasingly expect to hear in a branch, on a phone or over any other bank portal.

Already, City Bank Texas has hired dedicated talent to address consumers' questions without sounding like "techno-nerds." That includes helping people, say, find the camera icon on their phone after an operating system upgrade.

"We can't tell them, 'Call Apple,'" Simpson said.